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MORE ABRIDGED PETITION FOR JUSTICE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 5 (Scotch Reform, Real Property, Codification Petitions) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 5.
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MORE ABRIDGED PETITION FOR JUSTICE.
To the Honourable the House of Commons; the Petition of the Undersigned,
1.That, so far as regards the law in general, and the constitutional branch in particular, the main object of attachment and veneration is—the law called Magna Charta, the earliest of all statutes now recognised as such; and upon occasion, as such it is spoken of by all legislators and all judges.
2. That although, in large proportion, the happiness of us all does in truth depend upon the degree of observance given to a certain clause of it; yet, in respect of that same clause, is this same fundamental law grossly, notoriously, and continually violated: violated by all judges who are styled judges, and that violation connived at by legislators.
3. That though, in and by this clause it is said in so many words—“To no one will we delay, to no one sell, to no one deny justice;” meaning by justice, judge’s service—the sort of service performed by a judge as such, yet is this same justice, in all common-law, equity, and ecclesiastical courts, wilfully delayed to all—sold, at a vast and extortious price, to those who are able to purchase it,—and denied to all those who are unable: in which sad case are the immense majority of the whole people.
4. That the sale, thus made of the service performed by a judge, was produced, and is continued, by the mode in which remuneration was made for such service: the matter of such remuneration coming out of the pockets of those by whom alone the benefit of such service was supposed to be reaped, and increasing with the number of the official operations, performed, or falsely said to be performed,—and the number and length of the written instruments framed, or falsely said to be framed,—on the occasion of such service: of which remuneration, each distinct portion so received is styled a fee.
5. That, setting aside the case in which he is paid (as by money in the shape of salary,) without prospect of increase of pay by length of time,—there are two modes in which a workman of any sort is paid for the service done by him, or supposed to be done: one is that in which he is paid for the quantity and quality of the work done, or supposed to be done; this is called payment by the job, and the work is called job-work: the other is that in which he is paid according to the time, during which he is occupied or supposed to be occupied in doing the work; this is called payment by the time, and the work is called time-work.
6. That, for letting in operations upon operations, and written instruments upon written instruments, and applications for enlargement of the time,—a proportionate quantity of delay has been and is made necessary: and here may be seen the sinister interest in which the factitious part of the delay has its source.
7. That, in whichsoever mode the payment is made,—where, in official service, there are masters and servants (styled superior and subordinate) occupied or supposed to be occupied in the same work,—there are two modes in which the benefit of such remuneration finds its way into the pockets of the superior—in the present case, the judge: one, according to which each fee is paid to himself; the other, according to which the fee is paid to the possessor of some office under him, of which he has the patronage; and that thus, it being the interest, and put into the power, so has it been and continues to be the practice, of judges—to raise to the utmost the price paid, by the suitors, for the service of the subordinates of these same judges.
8. That the same community of sinister interests, which, in the case of the official class of lawyers, has place between superiors and subordinates, has place between the whole of the official class and the whole remaining class (that is to say, the professional) their emolument being composed of payment made for service done, or supposed to be done, to their respective clients—the parties: the more suits the one class gets, the more suits the other gets; and the more money the one gets, the more money the other gets, upon each suit: and thus it is that, by the judges to swell their own emoluments to the utmost, the suitors, who would be sufficiently vexed by the suit without being taxed, are taxed three times over: by payments to the judges, by payments to their subordinates, and by payments to the professional lawyers: the classes of whom are, for the same sinister purpose, multiplied without limit: and not only without use to, but greatly to the detriment of, truth and justice.
9. That, while thus benefiting themselves by the sale of justice, the same judges—by the same means—produce benefit to themselves by the denial of justice; for that, in so far as a judge saves himself from being called upon to perform his appropriate service, without losing money by so doing,—he obtains ease; and, as the total amount of the remuneration depends—partly upon the number of the suits, partly upon the amount of profit upon each suit,—and the number of the purchasers decreases as the price increases,—the price demanded will consequently be always as high as, without lessening the total profit, by lessening the number of the purchasers, it can be made to be. Here then, in the sale of what is called justice, as in the sale of goods, a constant calculation has, at all times, been carrying on; and, that the price is no higher than it is, is owing to this—namely, that if it were higher, more would be lost by the number of the persons prevented from being customers, than gained by the extra tax imposed upon those who become customers.
10. That thus, although in point of morality it is, and in point of law it ought to be made, the duty of a judge—to make the number of those to whom his service is rendered as great, and the service rendered to each as great, and as cheap, as possible,—yet so it is, that it having, as above, been made his interest, as well as put into his power, to render the number of those to whom his service is rendered as small, and the service rendered to each as small, and dear, as possible,—his interest is thus, by these arrangements, put into a state of opposition to such his moral duty:—opposition, as complete as possible.
11. That, in respect of expense, such is the effect of this sinister interest, that, where money or money’s worth is the subject of dispute,—in the common-law courts, the least amount of the expense is, on each side, under the most favourable circumstances, upwards of £30; while, in cases to a large extent, it amounts to hundreds of pounds, and in the equity courts to much more: and, by appeal from court to court, one above another, under different names,—it may be, and is, raised to thousands of pounds: in the equity courts to little if anything short of tens of thousands of pounds: and this in cases in which, under the only mode of procedure really conducive to, or aiming at, justice (of which mode presently) the suit would be heard and determined, without any expense in the shape of money, and at an inconsiderable expense in the shape of time.
12. That, in cases of bankruptcy and insolvency, matters are so ordered, that,—in a great, not to say the greater, part of the individual instances,—the persons among whom the greater part, not unfrequently the whole, of the effects are distributed, are—not the creditors, but the lawyers:—the lawyers of both classes: and, as if to thicken the confusion and increase the plunderage,—insolvency and bankruptcy, in themselves the same thing, are dealt with, by two different sorts of judicatories,—examining into the facts in two different sorts of ways, upon two different sorts of principles: every insolvent having moreover given to him the means of making himself a bankrupt.
13. That, in the courts called equity courts, matters are so ordered, that, when a fortune is left (for example to a female) by a last will, so it is that, in cases to a large extent, she cannot receive it, till it has passed through an equity court; and the consequence is that, if the fortune—say £10,000—has fallen to her at a period of early infancy, and, upon the strength of it, she has made and received promise of marriage,—upon coming of age, when she should receive it, if at the end of eight years from the death of the testator, she has received so much as a penny for her subsistence, it is a favourable case for her: and, by an opponent, if he chooses to be at the expense, may this delay (as witness a trustworthy writer* ), be “doubled or trebled:” the proceeds being in the meantime swallowed up by the judges and their confederates.
14. That, by intervals of inaction between one part and another of the same suit—intervals of from eighteen to one hundred and twenty days between term and term, and of six months or twelve months between assizes and assizes,—matters are so ordered, that, on the occasion of a penal suit, which, by proceeding as before a justice of the peace, would have been heard and determined in a few minutes,—the accused, guilty or innocent, is confined in a prison for six months or twelve months, there to linger, before the definitive examination called the trial is performed. Thus is produced the so-much-lamented contamination: a disease not least deplored by those to whose profit, and those by whose indifference, it is suffered to continue. All this while, if for a single moment injustice sleeps, why should justice? Even in sabbath time, if the God of justice forbids not the drawing of an ox or an ass, at that time, out of a pit,—with what reason can he be supposed to forbid the drawing an innocent man, woman, or child, out of a prison? or to forbid, for a moment, any operation necessary or conducive to the prevention, suppression, or punishment of crimes, or to satisfaction for the suffering?
15. That, in an equity court, an answer,—which, by proceeding as by a justice of the peace, might be brought out in the same minute as that which produced the question,—may be made to take five years or more to extract,—if he to whom it is put will distribute among the judges and other lawyers the price put upon the delay; and, in cases to a great extent, when the answer is thus obtained, all the use made of it is—the enabling a man to give commencement to another suit—a suit at common law: the common-law judges,—whatsoever question they allow to be put to a witness at the trial, that is to say, towards the conclusion of a suit,—not suffering any question to be put to a party, at the commencement of that same suit. And why? Even because, if they did, suits in large proportion would, in less than an hour, be each of them nipt in the bud;—these same individual suits, of which, in equity, the mere commencement may, as above, be made to last more than five years.
16. That, on pain of losing his right—whatsoever may be the value of that same right,—this is the course, which a man may be obliged to take, in order, for example, to put it to another man to acknowledge or deny his own handwriting:—this being the only course which can be taken, when no third person—who has seen him write, or in any other way is sufficiently acquainted with his handwriting,—can be discovered, and made to answer: common-law judges refusing to suffer any such question to be put, to any person who is a party to the suit: to insincerity thus scandalous, on the part of a suitor who is conscious of being in the wrong, affording in this way encouragement and reward.
17. That, on a proceeding before a justice of the peace, or in a small-debt court, the matter of law, and the matter of fact on which the demand is grounded, are brought forward at the very outset; and, in many if not most cases, the evidence in support of it at the same time: and so, either at that same time, or on as early a day as may be, it is, in regard to the defence: And here, if, in any one case, this mode of proceeding is, in a greater degree than any other that can be employed, conducive—not only to the exclusion of needless expense, delay, and vexation,—but moreover to right decision,—we humbly entreat the Honourable House to consider, whether it can be any otherwise in any other case.
18. That, in the common-law courts,—both in cases called criminal or penal, and in cases between man and man, called civil,—so lost are judges to all sense of shame, that not only do they carry on, but openly avow—yes, and in so many words—the practice of giving “decisions” not grounded on the merits; that is to say, of deciding contrary to justice: for, by a judge, how is it that justice can be contravened, or injustice committed, if it be not by purposely deciding otherwise than according to the merits? And to this dissoluteness is given the denomination, and the praise, of strictness: and, such is the blindness produced by the arts of delusion on the public mind,—that this abomination is, by non-lawyers, commonly supposed to be, because by lawyers it is said to be, necessary, or at any rate conducive, to justice.
19. That, accordingly, it is without scruple that they give one man’s whole property to another man, for no reason than that some lawyer, official or professional, or some clerk in the employ of one or other of them or of some third person, has inserted, in some word, material or immaterial, in some writing, material or immaterial, a letter which is, or is said to be, a wrong one,—or has omitted a right one.
20. That, by the same means, and on the same pretence, and without any the least symptom of regret, they give, habitually and constantly, impunity to crime in every shape: the most mischievous and atrocious not excepted.
21. That, for example, it was but the other day, that a man,—who, beyond all doubt, had cut off the head of a child, was, at the instance of a judge, and for no other reason than that a word in a written instrument had been wrong spelt, acquitted: by which same means, with the approbation of all the judges, impunity may, at any time, by any man, in the situation of a lawyer’s clerk, be given to any other man, for any crime and, under favourable circumstances, the crime may be planned, and impunity secured to it, beforehand.
22. That this practice is the more flagrantly inexcusable,—inasmuch as, while it is carried on by a common-law judge, it is not carried on by an equity judge; nor, unless by accident, and in imitation of the bad example so set by superiors, is it, by a justice of the peace, or by a small-debt court.
23. That, on any occasion, the same judge, who on this or that former occasion has framed his decision on grounds contrary to the merits, declines, if he pleases, to pursue this course, and makes a merit of so doing: that, in this way, any set of these judges may,—under the direction, as usual, and in compliance with the will, of the chief,—give the thing in question—the estate or the money—to whichever of two men he pleases; by which means, without possibility of discovery, corruption to any amount may, on the part of judges in any number, have had place.
24. That, by all judges who are commonly styled judges—common-law judges as well as equity judges (not to speak of others who are not so styled,) mendacity, in one shape or other, is—openly, as well as habitually—licensed, rewarded, necessitated, and practised: and, by these same judges, by such mendacity, is filthy lucre knowingly and wilfully obtained.
25. That, by habit, to such a degree is all shame for the practice of so scandalous a vice extinguished,—that when a criminal who, conscious of his being guilty, confesses himself so to be,—the judge, as a matter of course, by persuasion purposely applied, engages him to declare himself not guilty: as if, supposing it desirable that other proof should be made, it could not as well be made without that lie as with it.
26. That, in like manner, what frequently happens is—that when, no one entertaining the least doubt of the man’s guilt, he is accordingly by the jury about to be declared guilty,—the judge, by persuasion purposely applied, engages them to declare him not guilty: and—so wretchedly, by thoughtless excess in the punishment, has the law been contrived—the law, or that which passes for such—(meaning the common law in contradistinction to the statute law)—that, in the individual instance, more evil is perhaps excluded by abatement in that same excess, than produced by the immorality and the insubordination thus exemplified.
27. That, in common law, under the name of judges, and in equity, under the name of masters in chancery,—judges have been, and habitually continue to be, in the practice of exacting fees for operations never performed: for attendances (for example) never paid: thus adding extortion to fraud: at the same time, not merely admitting but compelling the lawyers of the parties to be sharers in the same guilt, thus multiplying the expense to the suitors, for the sake of the profit to the lawyers:—and this abomination—though brought to their view by evidence which they have caused to be printed,—the commissioners, appointed for the purpose of perpetuating, on pretence of abrogating, abuses,—have, together with the above-mentioned and so many other abuses, suffered to pass without calling for its abrogation,—and without censure, or token of disapprobation.
28. That, under the system thus faithfully, howsoever imperfectly, delineated,—every man who is to a certain degree wealthy, has it completely in his power to ruin any other man who is to a certain degree less wealthy than himself: at the expense of a proprietor,—whether the property be in the possession of the one or the other,—gratification may thus be given by the wealthy man to his avarice: at the expense of any man, proprietor or non-proprietor, to his avarice, or to his groundless hatred or vengeance: the poorer the victim, the less time and money will the gratification thus afforded to the oppressor cost him: in the lawyers of all classes, and more especially in the judges,—on condition of distributing among them the requisite sums in the established proportions,—he will, on this as on other occasions, behold and find his ever-ready instruments.
29. That, accordingly, under such judges and such laws, security for whatsoever is most dear to man—property, power, reputation, personal comfort; condition in life, life itself—is an empty name:—witness, in regard to all real property, the printed declaration of an honest lawyer, whose name is so happily to be found on the list of the commissioners appointed to make report to the Honourable House on that subject. “No title” (says he in so many words,) at present, can be considered as perfectly “safe.”* —and it is by the sinister interest herein holden up to view, that this, as well as the other portions of the law, have been brought to this pass.
30. That, to keep the door shut, as close as possible, against all endeavours to apply to that system of disorder and maleficence any effectual remedy,—pains are constantly taken, to induce the persuasion, that of all these disorders, the cause is to be found—not in human maleficence, but in the unchangeable nature of things:—but, in any such notion, what degree of truth there is, we leave it—after the exposure thus made,—we leave it to all men to imagine, and we humbly leave it to the Honourable House to pronounce.
31. That, should it be affirmed that this our humble representation is exaggerated, and in proof of its being so, should it be asked—how, if the provision made for the support of rights and exclusion of wrongs were no better than as above represented, society could be kept together;—should this be asked, the answer is—that it would not be kept together, but for three things: namely, 1st, The circumstance—that the man of law, though from delinquency in the shape of fraud, from which, in his view of it, he has little or nothing to fear,—he has more to profit than to suffer,—yet, as to crimes of violence,—under the impossibility of providing protection for himself without extending it to the community at large,—he feels it his interest to do more or less towards the exclusion of them;—2d, The guardian influence of public opinion, under favour of that liberty, precarious as it is, which the press is left in possession of;—3d and last, An expectation,—though produced by delusion in spite of experience,—that, on each occasion, will be done that which ought to be done, or something to the like effect: on which last account we cannot but acknowledge, that it were better the delusion should continue, were it not that it is not possible that the disorder should, any further than it is laid open, receive any effectual remedy.
32. Finally, in regard to the so often-mentioned summary system, which is of course represented by lawyers, and thence regarded by others, as having nothing but dispatch to recommend it; we humbly insist, and challenge them to disprove it, that, for rectitude of decision, and thence for giving execution and effect to the law in all its parts,—it is far better adapted—not only than the system styled regular, but moreover than any other that can be named.
33. We therefore humbly pray—that, with such extensions and other amendments as may be found requisite,—this same system of summary procedure may be universally established—a judiciary establishment, suited to the application of it, instituted,—and the system styled regular completely extirpated.
34. For further particulars of the grievance and the main cause of it, but more especially of the remedy,—we take the liberty humbly to refer the Honourable House to the forms of petition, intituled Full-length Petition for Justice, Abridged Petition for Justice, and Petition for Codification,—all bearing the name of Jeremy Bentham, who thereby has made himself throughout responsible for the correctness of the statements therein contained: and to those who cannot find time for the perusal, we leave it to imagine and say,—whether a man, by whom a life of more than fourscore years has been passed without spot, and more than sixty of them employed on works on legislation, which in every part of the civilized world are known and regarded with approbation,—would, on a subject and occasion of such importance,—in the face of that same world, lightly hazard any assertion without some substantial ground.
[* ]Cooper on the Court of Chancery, anno 1828, p. 91.
[* ]Suggestions sent to the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Laws of Real Property, by John Tyrrell, of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister: London, 1829, p. 168.